Summer Camps That Make Sense
Whether your camp lasts only one week or runs from June to August, you will be faced with the challenge of trying to make individual changes to each camper which not only benefit their personal games, but which also last beyond the camp.
If you run a one-week camp, you will not be able to make any lasting motor skill changes in any of your campers. It’s not scientifically possible.
Yes, you can identify weaknesses and make corrections, some of which the camper may even be able to use during your camp, but the motor skill will not last unless correctly practiced for a number of weeks after the camp.
So what should be the focus of a one-week camp? Your goal should be to analyze each player’s style of play; use of strategies and tactics; shot-making skills; stroke skills; and mental toughness.
If you have a player for only five to seven days, your focus should center on properly evaluating these five areas of each player’s game, determining improvements and corrections, and leaving them with a way to practice and develop their games in all five of these areas.
If your camps run longer, you have more time to spend on drilling and strokework.
For both short- and long-term camps, the following progression will provide a much more useful and enjoyable camp experience than the “Monday is forehands, Tuesday is backhands…” traditional camp structure.
#1 Determine a Style of Play
Your players will either be baseliners, serve-and-volleyers or all-court players. While some players may feel comfortable on the baseline, you may determine from their stroke skills that they have the groundstrokes and foot speed to become all-court players who aggressively work their way into the net each point.
If a player has the speed, serve and hand-eye coordination, you may feel this player has the potential to play serve and volley. You may even decide this despite the fact that the player has a weak serve, but you see they have the ability to improve that serve.
Discuss with each player their strengths and weaknesses prior to beginning the camp, what style of play they are currently using, and what style of play they wish to develop or maintain.
#2 Develop Strategies and Tactics
Once you have determined each player’s playing style, you will then impart to them the strategies and tactics needed to play that style of play.
Serve and volleyers, for example, will need to serve down the middle, take something off the serve to allow them more time to get to the net, make their first volley deep, closing the net for their second volley.
All-court players will need to learn how to attack short balls and second serves, produce short balls, play through the middle of the court and close the net.
Baseliners will need to learn how to pin opponents deep, force errors and produce and attack short balls from mid-court.
Explain to each of the three groups, separately, the strategies and tactics that best work for their style of game (including serve, return, groundstroke and volley strategies) in order to develop an offensive, proactive game, rather than simply a defensive, reactive game.
#3 Identify Appropriate Shot Combinations
Based on the strategies and tactics each type of player uses, certain shots and shot combinations will become necessary.
For example, serve and volleyers will repeatedly use a three-shot combination: serve down the middle; deep volley; short, angled put away.
All-court players will need to learn how to play through the middle of the court, using an approach shot-volley combination. They will also need to learn how to attack second serves using forward-movement with a split-step when returning.
Baseliners will need to be able to keep balls deep and low, relying on depth and direction to produce errors and short balls. By using the long-ball, short-ball strategy described in the ? skill-building drill, they will be able to effectively attack short balls, hitting winners from mid-court.
#4 Analyze Stroke Mechanics
Typically the first step undertaken by coaches in most camp and academy situations, this should actually be the last stage of a player’s development. Making changes to a player’s mechanics without knowing how the stroke will be used not only increases the chance that incorrect technique changes will be made, but also increases the time it takes to learn a new skill.
Once you know what style of play a player will use, the strategies and tactics she will need to play that style, and the shots and shot combinations she will need to make those shots, THEN you can see how her current strokes allow or don’t allow her to pursue these goals.
Looking at a player’s strokes in a vacuum and making changes without know whether he or she is a baseliner or serve and volleyer, or working on a player’s power when his tactical need is depth is obviously inappropriate.
For example, players who will need to learn to play through the middle of the court as part as a result of the strategies they employ, will need to learn how to shorten their backswings and elongate their follow-throughs in order to get more depth on the ball.
Players who will need to keep balls low and deep, and who will need to be able to hit approach shots will need to learn how to slice.
Following this progression of development for your camps will make your program not only unique in your community, but will allow your players to see how your program works in a logical order to develop their overall game, from strokes to shots to strategies to styles.